Another reason why amateurs are less likely to come up with innovative and plausible new interpretations of data is the fact that amateurs and hobbyists are rarely fully acquainted with the range and depth of scholarship on a given topic. I learned today that Bryan Lewis has created a comic illustrating something that is the common experience of would-be doctoral students and amateur thinkers alike:
Rarely if ever is an idea completely new. If you think that mythicism, for instance, is a relatively new idea that scholars refuse to give a hearing to, rather than an old one which was evaluated and judged inadequate even before some discoveries (the Dead Sea Scrolls) and changed perspectives (the focus on the Jewish context of Jesus in the so-called “third quest” for the historical Jesus), then that simply shows a lack of familiarity with the history of scholarship in this area.
If you are planning on working on a PhD in Biblical studies, you may well find yourself writing about how you have a completely new perspective to offer or a radically new conclusion to draw about this or that.
Hopefully the above comic will help you understand what that smile on your future supervisor’s face is saying…